Page images
PDF
EPUB

Quebec.)

THE ANCIENT RAMPARTS.

1:27

slowly turning the pages of an ancient black-letter book, or a chronicle of the Crusades, and dream of the siege of Jerusalem or the Wars of the Roses. As one of their own writers (Thoreau) said :—"In the armoury of the Citadel they showed me a clumsy implement, long since useless, which they called a Lombard gun. I thought that their whole Citadel was such a Lombard gun-fit object for the museums of the curious. Silliman states that the cold is so intense in the winter nights on Cape Diamond, that the sentinels cannot stand it more than one hour. I shall never again wake up on a colder night than usual but I shall think how rapidly the sentinels are relieving one another on the walls of Quebec, their quicksilver being all frozen, as if apprehensive that some hostile Wolfe may even then be scaling the Heights of Abraham, or some persevering Arnold about to emerge from the wilderness : some Malay or Japanese, perchance, coming round by the north-west coast, have chosen that moment to assault the Citadel. Why, I should as soon expect to see the sentinels still relieving one another on the walls of Nineveh, which have so long been buried to the world. What a troublesome thing a wall is ! I thought it was to defend me, and not I it. Of course, if they had no walls, they would not need to have any sentinels.”

The requirements of modern warfare have rendered the local fortifications of little avail as a means of covering the city from destruction; and the real defences are the three great detached forts on the distant heights of Point Levi, armed with British artillery of heavy calibre. Surveys and plans have been made for another group of forts near Sillery, to protect the western approaches, as the Point Levi works command those on the south. With these lines fairly garrisoned, and a brace of ironclads from the Channel Fleet in the harbour, Quebec would be as impregnable as she was in 1775.

Let us follow the circuit of the ancient ramparts, which still surround the Upper Town (with but few slight breaks), as if they were the rocky girdle of a Western Chester or Berwick-on-Tweed. For a long way from the Citadel they are high and beetling, frowning across their deep moats upon the Plains of Abraham, and with smooth grassy slopes toward the town. Then the very picturesque and many-towered Dufferin Gate appears, over-arching the aristocratic St. Louis Street, and occupying the site of the ancient St. Louis Gate, whose defences were removed in 1871. The clear-cut masonry of this portal attests how recent was the victory of æstheticism over the local Philistines. Beyond Dufferin Gate the wall is high and formidable, and the broad grassy space of the Esplanade, encumbered with old guns, separates it from the town. The curving line of bastions is broken by a street lately cut through, to allow the Frenchmen of the extra-mural Montcalm Ward to comfortably enter towards the Basilica and the Market Place. Here is the new Kent Gate, erected by Queen Victoria, as a memorial of her distinguished father,

a the Duke of Kent, whose name was so closely connected with that of Quebec. It is a work of considerable architectural beauty, with picturesque Norman turrets and battlements of masonry, and deep-cut arrow-slits. The high embrasured wall may be followed from this point to the massive arches of St. John's Gate, through which the chief business street of the Upper Town passes out upon the plateau beyond towards St. Foy. This gate was built in 1869, on the site of the one before which Montcalm received his death-wound while rallying the defeated regiments of France. When the Americans attacked Quebec, one

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly, adorned with the royal arms, and often re-echoing with the loud debates of the Latin statesmen and legislators.

A little way outside of the Dufferin Gate, on the Grande Allée, stands the new Palace of the Provincial Government, a handsome stone building, of great size, built around a quadrangular court, and occupying so lofty a site that it may be seen from the hamlets of the hill-country, many leagues away. The side of the quadrangle which faces towards the ramparts is not yet built. Here, in great beauty of architecture, will stand the Parliament House of the Province.

At the corner of St. John Street and Palace Street is a quaint little statue of General Wolfe, now nearly a century old, and highly esteemed by the people. It has had many amusing

adventures in its day, each one of which increases the estimation in which the citizens hold their patron hero. One night a party of naval officers, roystering about the town, secretly removed the statue, and bore it away, in one of his Majesty's ships, to Barbadoes, whence it was sent back, many months afterwards, enclosed in a coffin.

The massive stone building of Morrin College, erected seventy years ago for a prison, and now occupied by a languishing Protestant school, is chiefly notable as containing the valuable library and museum of the Quebec Literary and Historical Society, an organisation which includes the foremost literati of Eastern Canada, and pub

lishes numerous volumes of records and researches in the annals and traditions of the old St. Lawrence provinces. A school of literature, too little known outside of Canada, has risen in this region, and achieved works of permanent merit. The names of Garneau, De Gaspé, Bédard, De Boucherville, and Le Moine are known and honoured throughout the Dominion ; and it is but a year or two since Fréchette, a brilliant young poet of New France, was crowned by the Academy of Paris.

The aristocracy of Quebec is largely of the same race, the descendants of the lords of the noble fiefs which Louis XIV. founded along the St. Lawrence. Many of them are acquainted with the English language ; but the speech and customs of their ancestors are carefully retained in their homes, although Canada's crown of maple-leaves has supplanted the fleur-de-lys for ever. It is less than fifty years since the leading newspaper of Montreal said: “For a state of peace to be maintained, we must make a solitude ; the French-Canadians must be swept from the face of the earth.” In 1837 there was a civil war between the two nationalities in the colony, and hundreds of the French-Canadians were killed or transported. But wise concessions reconciled the insurgents; their courts of law were conducted in their mother

[graphic]

CHAMPLAIN STEPS.

tongue; their religion was left unshackled; and the true Canadian race, descendants of the first colonists, became the national people.

The Lower Town—the place of commerce, the docks, the railway terminus, the banks, and the homes of thousands of labourers-is reached by several zigzag roads descending from the walled city above. Near the Prescott Gate, also begin the Champlain Steps, or the Côte la Montagne, a long and narrow stairway, bordered on either side by little shops, and reminding imaginative travellers of Trieste, or Naples, or Malta. It has more in common with Rag Fair, and between the tall houses which border it continuous crowds pass from the grave and decorous Upper Town to the long lines of steamboat piers which front the river wards. An easier route of communication between the two parts of the town is by an ingenious inclined railway, on which little cars are drawn up a steep ascent, enclosed to keep snow from the rails, and ending near the Dufferin Terrace. The main thoroughfares of the Lower Town are St. Peter Street, between the base of the cliff and the rushing St. Lawrence, and St. Paul Street, on the very narrow littoral strip under the Rampart, and facing the embouchure of the St. Charles. These streets are traversed by tramways, and bordered by plain and substantial buildings of grey stone, the seat of a large wholesale trade, and of the financial institutions of the city. Near the great Champlain Market is the most interesting locality in this region of shops and docks—the Church of Notre Dame des Victoires, built in the year 1690, on the site of Champlain's residence. Seventy years later it was destroyed by the bombardment from General Wolfe's batteries, as if the distant gunners realised that its name was derived from the French victories which sent two hostile British fleets flying down the river, crippled and dismayed (in 1690 and 1711). At Pointe à Garcy, the outermost point, at the confluence of the two rivers, stands the imposing classic building of the Custom House, nobly conspicuous from the harbour. The new works of the Lorne Embankment, sheltering the harbour, are in the stream.

Beyond the Palace Market extends the Queen's Fuel Yard, the site of a great range of buildings once occupied by M. Bigot, the last royal Intendant of New France, who maintained a princely state here, with the revenues which he extorted from the oppressed inhabitants of the colony. During the American siege, the palace was captured by the Virginia riflemen, who annoyed the garrison so sorely that the batteries of the Upper Town were directed upon them, until the bursting shells set fire to the buildings, and caused their rapid destruction. Beyond this locality extend the lowland wards of St. Roch and Jacques Cartier, with their convents and tall Roman churches, and many little streets paved with planks, and abounding in queer genre pictures of French ouvrier life. Hereabouts is the great Marine Hospital, in its park beside the St. Charles, and also the General Hospital, founded by Bishop de Vallier in 1693, and conducted by Augustinian nuns of the Convent of Notre Dame des Anges.

On the plateau, between the walls and the line of Martello towers, are the Montcalm and St. John Wards, densely populated by French people, and studded with convents and charities. This was the district destroyed by the great conflagration in 1881, when many hundreds of families were made houseless and poor, and even the massive walls of St. John's Church were unable to stay the devouring flames. The St. Foye road runs along the edge of the plain, and commands fine views of the Lorette and Charlesbourg meadows, and the great

Quebec.)

THE BATTLE ON THE PLAINS OF ABRAHAM.

113

mountains of Bonhomme and Tonnonthuan, a sight of surpassing splendour when the sunset light transfigures its poetic outlines.

The extra-mural wards are protected by four thick-walled round towers, isolated on the plain, and each pierced for seven cannon. These venerable and picturesque warders were built seventy years ago. Still farther out is a spacious castellated prison, with its walls pierced for musketry. It is but a few steps thence to the tall column which bears the proud inscription : llere died Wolfe, victorious. Sept. 13, 1759. Let William Pitt tell as he did before the House of Commons, so long ago) of “the horror of the night, the precipice scaled by Wolfe, the empire he with a handful of men added to England, and the glorious catastrophe of contentedly terminating life where his fame began

Ancient story may be ransacked, and ostentatious philosophy thrown into the account, before an episode can be found to rank with Wolfe's."

After more than a century of almost incessant colonial border wars, it became evident that either France or England must be sole master of the North American continent; and Pitt, confiding in the valour and skill of Generals Amherst and Wolfe, ordered those officers to attack Canada on different sides, and unite their forces in the heart of the country. Wolfe accordingly set sail from Louisburg with 8,000 fine troops and a fleet of nearly fifty vessels, twenty-two of which were ships of the line ; and effected a landing near Quebec, which was defended by the Marquis de Montcalm, a brave and accomplished French officer, with an army of 13,000 men. There were a few battalions of regulars in the garrison, but the larger part of the force was composed of Canadian militia and Indian bands. Wolfe's cannonade of the town from the opposite side of the river failed to damage its mighty ramparts; and in an unavailing assault on the French lines near Beauport, the besiegers lost 800 men. The condition of the British forces was most discouraging, opposed, as they were, to the whole might of Canada ; and Wolfe, poignantly grieved at the apparent miscarriage of his great expedition, set about to discover some new point of attack. At last he found it. He determined to scale the great cliffs at the back of the city and to give battle to the French on the Plains of Abraham. The larger vessels of the fleet were left to cannonade the lines at Beauport, while the others ran up by Quebec, bearing the army. During the night the British forces were secretly landed at the base of the cliffs, and rapidly ascended, by narrow paths, preceded by a body of Highlanders, who drove away the French guards along the summit. At dawn the army stood in line of battle on the Plains; and Montcalm was warned of the new danger by the distant roll of musketry. Hurrying his troops back from Beauport he deployed them outside the ramparts, and hastened to attack the invaders. The British right rested on the edge of the precipice, and the line was formed by the 35th, 28th, 43rd, 58th, and 78th regiments, with the 15th and 60th in the second line, and the 48th in reserve.

The left flank and rear were covered by the light infantry. It was Montcalm's purpose to crush the left wing, and drive it back to the river, and then to press upon the centre and right with his main force. He had nearly 8,000 men on the field, opposed to 5,000 British veterans. The battle thus begun (at ten in the morning) raged fiercely on the left, until the reserves were thrown in as supports, and the Canadians gave way. Then Montcalm advanced upon the British line, with his entire army, pouring destructive volley's into the waiting ranks. By great

« PreviousContinue »